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A Lesson in Letting Go (Again)

Last night a crazy neighbor accosted me after I made the mistake of saying “Hi.” It was about eight pm and I was walking our little dog Sugar, a Maltese mix who weighs about twelve pounds soaking wet. Mind you, when I say “neighbor,” I mean directly next door. As in mere feet from my property.

This neighbor, who I will call Miss M, has been angry and belligerent and shown all the signs of being bipolar - or perhaps just straight up mean and nasty - since we moved in ten years ago. But her rage never ceases to surprise me, though I know that it shouldn’t. I know full well that people show their true selves pretty early on, you just need to pay attention to what they’re telling you.

After I said “Hi,” and kept strolling with little Sugar on her pink leash, my son nearby, Miss M sputtered “Don’t talk to me,” and continued cursing under her breath as she is wont to do.

“Your dog shit on my lawn, I have it on video!” she screamed.

“No way,” I said. “I have never ever left a poo unpicked up in my life. And certainly not on your lawn” I know what a rager she is and why on earth would I invite trouble? “Maybe you saw her make a thimbleful of pee, but no poo.” Sugar famously does a weird kind of yoga squat with one leg up in the air when she pees, and it can easily be mistakenly for a poo stance. TMI?

And then, I could ‘t help myself - I am sick and tired of her verbal assaults - I said “And can you please not yell so loud at your dog? It freaks Sugar out.”

And when I say yell, I mean Miss M screams at her dog at the top of her lungs at least twice a day, seven days a week. An example (curse alert here); “God damn you, you motherfucker! I hate you! You fucking stupid animal, I could kill you! Get over here - GET OVER HERE!!” She talks to him like he is an abusive or slovenly spouse and it is genuinely strange to hear a human be so verbose in disparaging an animal.

"I don't give a FUCK about you or Sugar!" I ignored whatever else she said and kept strolling.

I find myself being glad for the dog’s sake that he doesn’t understand the words, though obviously he understands the tone. I mutter to myself that she should not be allowed near any living things, including animals - she is simply too full of rage and venom.

The last time she raged it was over someone parking in front of her house - there is ample free street parking everywhere and in ten years I have never seen the street full. Before that she accused my son and I of killing cats but an animal control officer confirmed that the cat carcass on her lawn had been eaten by coyotes. Before that she accused me of ripping her car cover, when in reality it was the plentiful neighborhood crows that land on it, I’m guessing because they can get traction and a high point of view.

And on and on goes the list of unpleasant encounters, but you get the point. Miss M is so loud that you can hear her if you’re on the phone inside my house. My son looked at me one day a year or so ago in the middle of one of her abusive tirades and said “You know what that dog is saying? ‘Why me?’”.

I laughed in recognition, but Miss M’s verbal abuse has gotten to the point where I wouldn’t be surprised if that giant dog gets fed up one day and just eats her. In fact, I’m not proud to say that on some especially vocal days, I am rooting for him.

Mind you, her dog is a gigantic young Great Dane who stands seven feet tall on his hind legs. He puts his huge paws on the top of his gate to see all the other dogs and passersby and wears the “Oh boy!” expression of a giant puppy. Like many Danes, he is a gentle and goofy giant, and wants to meet and greet and sniff and tumble around with every dog that passes by. In a word, he seems to be a sweet handful.

Some background - Miss M’s house looks untouched since it was built in the 1940s and is full of side yard junk. She has never once opened her blinds in ten years. Everything in her yard - ancient umbrellas, old broken pots for plants, the siding itself - is faded and peeling and/or full of black and green mold. The only thing Miss M seems to caretake are her two mediocre ten year old cars, which she hand washes and lovingly covers every weekend.

So how is this about letting go? When Miss M first came at me years ago when I was new to the house, I was deeply rattled. I have been told that I am an HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person, and all the traits ring true for me; emotionally hyper sensitive, allergic to violence, avoid vigorous confrontation, etc. But now, the umpteenth time Miss M got in my face, she is less in my psyche than before. I consider this progress.

And it makes me realize that this has been a season of letting go. Maybe being middle aged - okay, likely entering the final third of my life - makes me care less. I simply don’t have time to waste worrying about what other people think or how much their unresolved issues run their world and (often bad) behavior. This extends to friends, family, co-workers - the lot. I am doing for me not against anyone. And I don’t care to dilly dally if you haven’t taken the time to grow yourself up emotionally. They call it emotional intelligence, right?

Recently a longtime friend disappeared on me. Ghosted me as they say. Suddenly dropped off the radar - didn’t text or call when my son graduated college or over the holidays, unusual given our long history. And though at first I was deeply hurt, I realized that I have always danced around her moods - if she wanted to be rowdy, I followed along. If she wanted to be somber and sober, I did that too. Of course it takes two, and I suppose I was practicing the not so healthy trait of codependence with her. But when I realized how lousy I felt about her, how unsafe and unseen - my telling assumption was that she disappeared because of something I did to offend her, though who the hell knows what - I resolved to let it go. I don’t want a friendship that feels like that. In fact, for me it turns out it really wasn’t a friendship at all since it seemed to always be steered by her mood, her needs, her wants. Relationships, the successful ones, need reciprocity.

I’ve had similar experiences with family members too, realizing for the hundredth time that I may need to step back from an unhealthy relationship as it takes me too damn long to recover emotionally after being hurt by someone’s insensitivity, whether they intended it or not.

So have I perfected this, the ‘let it go’ phase of my life? No, not by a long shot. But I am working on it. I am aware of it and trying to keep a positive attitude as I often feel buffeted by this increasingly challenging world.

So next time little Sugar goes on a walk, I will ignore Miss M and march past her crappy lawn and falling down house. I will try to think positive thoughts in my mind and be grateful for the good people in my orbit rather than curse the naysayers.

Like I said, it is the season of letting go. And guess what? It feels pretty good.

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